Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Diversity efforts in the workplace collide with an unclear Swedish ideal

16.09.2008
"Diversify or Die" -diversity is a concept on many people's lips. Diversity is praised as good for business and for promoting creativity.

But when organizational theorist Viktorija Kalonaityte studied diversity work at a Swedish adult education school, the school wanted to make everyone as "Swedish" as possible.

Companies and organizations are often urged to recruit and maintain a workforce that is demographically mixed.

"Diversity advocates often talk about what the organization should be, but not where it should be. It involves an ideal where people say 'diversity is profitable' and that it leads to creativity. But they rarely want to talk about unpleasant aspects, that diversity can also entail discrimination and conflicts," says the researcher.

"We live in a global world where the diversity that is created is based on a workforce that is well educated and takes white-collar jobs. However, large groups are socially and economically vulnerable."

In Sweden diversity is largely about integration policy and the public sector, rather than the more prevalent American big corporation perspective. Viktorija Kalonaityte recently defended her doctoral dissertation at the School of Economics, Lund University. The thesis addressed identity and diversity work at a municipal school for adults. The school she studied views itself as working actively with diversity in line with a municipal diversity plan. But organizations do not always function as planned, and Viktorija Kalonaityte looks at reasons for this that are tied to deeply rooted cultural rationalities. Her study shows that the diversity plan often collides with people's understandings of what things should be like at a Swedish workplace.

"Their interpretation of diversity deviates dramatically from the municipal plan and various notions of what diversity should mean. For example, the school wanted to assimilate instead of integrating its students of foreign backgrounds. There is a feeling that these students belong to another world and are drastically different. The school's self-image touts that it should safeguard women from honor-based cultures and helplessness. Women are regarded as passive and helpless."

On the other hand, what is meant by "Swedish" is extremely difficult to grasp.

"Sometimes it's Swedish to be active and independent. But if a student causes trouble in class, that's something other than Swedish, and the student must be seen instead as lacking an understanding of what goes on in the classroom. This makes Swedishness impossible to attain, because there are no ten clear points -the concepts are constantly shifting."

The municipal school for adults wishes to show its students "a proper Swedish workplace." At the same time, the teachers are part of the "other." Even though prayer and other religious practices are banned from the school, the teachers allow the students to go off and pray, and the teachers' staff development days are planned to coincide with student holidays. Several teachers are learning Arabic in order to understand their students better. In this way, the teachers and the routines are altered. This poses a problem in terms of the school's self-image.

"The school wishes to retain its Swedishness, but it is not able to mediate perfect Swedishness to its students. For instance, the school brought in Swedes from outside to speak more perfect Swedish than its own teachers. When they wanted to show a real Swedish workplace, they had to take the students on a field trip."

Viktorija Kalonaityte maintains that organizations that work with diversity should bear in mind that they change when they work with people. Employers cannot maintain control in the same way, because other languages are used and new ideas enter the picture. The researcher says we need to have a more open approach to diversity plans.

"Speak instead with everyone who represents diversity in the workplace and see what happens. Employers like to view themselves as good, fair, and humane. But sometimes it's better to ask people what makes them feel good and what needs they have, instead of assuming that only management knows how change should take place and that only individuals of foreign background need to change."

The dissertation is titled Off the Edge of the Map: A Study of Organizational Diversity as Identity Work and it was publicly defended last spring at the Department of Business Administration at the School of Economics, Lund University in Sweden.

Kristina Rörström | idw
Further information:
http://www.vr.se

Further reports about: Discrimination Workforce diversity work white-collar jobs

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>